Thursday, August 7, 2014

France On The Brink by Jonathan Fenby

Jonathan Fenby has covered France and its government and economy for fifty years.  When the first edition of this book was released in 2000, it was a New York Times Book Of The Year.  This second edition, written fourteen years later, updates the original book and looks at the current state of France.

Like many countries, France is struggling in the modern world with the globalization of economies.  The number of individuals making their living on farms has decreased dramatically, and with that comes the struggle of villages and small towns.  There are less manufacturing jobs, and one quarter of those employed work in government jobs.  Unemployment is high and seems intractable.  The government has given benefits such as the thirty-five hour workweek and then struggles to deal with the fallout of such policies as money to pay for them becomes scarcer.

The political landscape seems full of politicians who promise change and hope but then cannot deliver.  Power moves from the conservative to the liberal but neither seems able to make a difference that the population can embrace.  Fenby goes into great detail about the power struggles for the last fifteen years and the Presidents such as Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande.  Each is elected to great fanfare and then within months their approval ratings start to slip until they are defeated by the next politician to promise solutions.

Readers interested in France will find much of interest in this work.  Fenby talks about the rise of ultra-right which bases its platform on anti-immigration policies as well as the food France is known for and the scandals that seem to be everyday fare.  He covers the war years and France's treatment of the Jews in that time period.  He talks about how the national symbols of France seem to be disappearing as it tries to reinvent itself to remain viable in the modern economy.  In his long career covering France, Fenby worked as the bureau chief in France for the Economist and Reuters.  He is married to a Frenchwoman and was made a Chevalier of the French Order Of Merit in 1990.  This book is recommended for history readers and those interested in the world around them.

You can read more about the book and others' reactions here


Becca said...

I probably won't read an entire book about this, but it is an interesting topic of discussion!

Anonymous said...

thanks Sandie for your nice presentation of the book. Glad you found it interesting. I think anyone interested in this topic should definitely read it